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Excellent first half for Whittard


Whittard of Chelsea, the leading tea and coffee retailer in the UK, has posted an excellent set of first half results, further boosted by very strong Christmas trading. At the same time, it has announced plans for further expansion in the UK and the US.

Profits for the six months to 24 November reached just £9,000, but this was an improvement on losses of £845,000 in the same period a year earlier. Turnover for the half was ahead 6 per cent at £16.7 million, while like-for-like sales grew by 7 per cent in the first half, increasing to 10 per cent for the first eight weeks of second half, helped by strong results from all the company's units.

Richard Rose, Whittard's chief executive, said: "I am delighted with these results, which build upon our return to profitability in the financial year ended May 2002 and are due to the re-focusing of the business around its core strengths announced last January.

"Our growth is continuing into the second half, with strong trading both at Christmas and during January 2003.These encouraging trends, coupled with the current level of trading activity, give me much cause for optimism and I am excited by the prospects for further growth that lie ahead."

During the half, the company opened one new store in the UK, which Rose said was trading very well, and further new stores will be opened in 2003. Whittard also opened its first area within a department store in the US, a unit which is also showing excellent results. As a result, more are planned during the current year, Rose said.

"Our excellent progress is continuing into the second half. Christmas trading was very strong, as have been the following weeks, with like for like sales for the eight weeks to 19 January 2003 up by 10 per cent. We are particularly pleased that we are continuing our accelerated rate of both sales and margin growth and that these increases are underpinned by further growth in the number of transactions as we continue to attract new customers," Rose said.

"The result for the six months under review is encouraging, given that our peak trading periods of Christmas and Easter both fall into the second half of the financial year, and underlines the strength of our brand both in the UK and overseas, where there remains much further potential for growth."

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